PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- After receiving significant pushback from teachers and parents, Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Dr. William Hite announced his new proposal to begin the upcoming school year entirely online.
On Tuesday, in a letter to parents and families, Hite said leaders are proposing that students start the year online, with classes being held virtually through the first marking period, which ends November 17.
Dr. Hite's original plan called for in-class learning two days a week and virtual learning the other three, but the superintendent said during a news conference on Wednesday that going completely online through the end of the first marking period makes the best of a very bad situation.
"We know there are groups of individuals on all sides of this issue that either agree or do not agree with our approach, with no obvious answers for how we can account for the many and often competing needs of our students, our families and our staff members," Hite said.
By the end of the first marking period, the district expects to have made a decision whether to remain completely online, or dove-tail into a hybrid model going into winter.
That, Dr. Hite says, is what makes this situation so difficult to manage. Simply put, the COVID-19 pandemic itself will dictate what happens next.
"We would only move into a hybrid if, in fact, the milestones are appropriate and the guidance we receive from the health commissioner allows us to move to some form of in-person instruction," Hite said.
The superintendent's proposal also calls on the Board of Education to push back the start of the school year from August 31 to September 2.
This, as the school district continues its effort to help families in need bridge the digital divide.
"We're going to continue distribution of Chromebooks to those students who still are in need of a device to engage in digital learning. We remain in constant communication with local legislators and business leaders to see how we can make sure all of our families have access to reliable internet service," said Hite.
An important note: all pre-K programs run by the district will also be held online. Pre-K programs run by the city are allowed to operate in person.
The school board is expected to approve Dr. Hite's proposal during a scheduled meeting on Thursday.